IBM i ERP Developer Achieves QA Gains with Original
August 17, 2010 Alex Woodie
Vermont Information Processing (VIP), a developer of ERP software for the beverage distribution industry, has achieved higher levels of software quality as the result of its use of Original Software‘s quality assurance (QA) and testing software for IBM‘s IBM i platform, the vendor announcement recently.
VIP develops and supports IBM i-based ERP software for approximately 400 companies in the U.S. beverage distribution industry. The company, which is based in Colchester, Vermont, has been supporting the IBM midrange server with its software for decades, and has a good track record to show for it. However, the recent wave of consolidation in the beverage distribution industry tested its abilities.
According to a case study posted on the Original Software website, VIP was challenged to address the change in business structure that resulted when many of its customers went through consolidations. While the scalability of VIP’s software was never a big issue, it became a problem to support custom configurations of the software–such as those needed to support different laws governing the taxing of liquor–within a single implementation of the ERP system, without customizing it to the extent that upgrades become problematic.
VIP’s was not a problem that’s unique in the enterprise software industry. Many ERP software companies have come to face the challenges posed by industry consolidation, and the greater flexibility it requires, not just in ERP features and functions, but also in how the software is delivered.
VIP responded by dramatically increasing the number of major releases it delivered to customers, from about one major release every three years, to one major release each year, surrounded by multiple minor releases. While VIP succeeded in scaling up its development program, it did not initially ramp up the QA process accordingly.
“Our customers were really frustrated with us,” said Bobby Erwin, a quality control analyst at VIP. “To get a new feature, they’d also get all these other problems to boot. This would become a strain on the support team, too, as they’d spend hours on the phone going through problems.”
VIP responded to the lack of QA controls in 2007 by implementing two Original products for the IBM i platform, including TestBench and TestDrive. Three years later, the two products enabled VIP to gets its quality back on track.
“Prior to this we conducted no regression testing at all, just a month or so of acceptance testing by customer service and then the beta tests,” Erwin says. “Now we have a battery of tests we perform every time we release.”
The chances of a bug–such as the price list error that caused problems at dozens of VIP customers earlier in the decade–sneaking through are much slimmer now. Instead of spending 80 hours to write custom patches to fix problems like the price list bug, Erwin and his team can identify and quash 10 to 12 bugs in the same amount of time.
VIP’s customer support and customer service teams are also happier now. “Our builds are just so much better now, and we can also tell them exactly how risky a release is, and predict the levels of support that might be needed,” Erwin says. “Management are leaning on it heavily and are really pleased with it.”